Friday, May 8, 2009

Swarm cells!

Opened my hives and found swarm cells! This means the hive is crowded and the bees are raising more queens in order to split the workforce and send out a new queen with a group of bees to start a new hive.

Needless to say, I am not, like most beekeepers, in support of this plan. I want my bees to stay home and make honey.

I had left my hives alone for about 2 weeks - one, it's been teeming with rain and also I wanted to let them get a good grip on their bee business.

{Note the pendulous, peanut shell-shaped queen swarm cells in the picture above. If they are at the bottom of the frame they are swarm cells; if they are in the middle of the frame they are "supersedure queens cells - those mean the bees don't like their old queen and are raising her replacement.}

One of my 2 queens (Elizabeth) originally started out with the majority of the packaged bees. It turns out she is very productive and over the past month has filled up two boxes full of brood and honey. When I opened her hive up I found 3 swarm cells! Yikes!

I removed them (and gave them to my son to take to science class) and gave her another box of frames for her workers to build comb in. Meanwhile my smaller hive (Kathryn's) had finally filled the first box so I gave her a second.

Here is the cool part: Since Elizabeth had too much brood and Kathryn not as much, I took two frames of brood from E. and put them in the new box for K. I smoked and brushed to get as many adult worker bees off as possible first (although I saw one death match afterward in the top feeder: bees will kill adults from another hive, but they will accept larvae and brood).

My bee mentor said this was all good - equalizing the population between hives is a good plan. But I needed to not overwhelm the weak hive with too many new babies to feed - moving capped brood, not open larvae (which needs feeding) was the thing to do (I think I did that).

Also now I have to assiduously check every week to make sure Elizabeth's workers are not continuing to raise more queens: once they start down that road it's hard to change their minds.

Then again, the bees are smarter than me. Who am I to try to change their minds??